Every morning Jose Melecio picks up his first student around 6:15 a.m. It\u2019s a journey that ends at Ridgefield High School before the starting bell rings at 7:25. But for Melecio, a bus driver for Ridgefield Public Schools (RPS), the ride is just beginning. From RHS, he makes drop-offs at Scotts Ridge Middle School and then at Scotland Elementary School. He\u2019s gotten a reputation along the way. Thoughtful gestures \u2014 flowers on the last day of school, personalized music selection on ordinary days \u2014 have made Melecio stand out in the hearts and minds of those he serves. It\u2019s a relationship that\u2019s so special that he refers to his young riders as \u201chis nieces and nephews,\u201d and regards some of their parents as extensions of his own family. \u201cI have a parent that every other day she\u2019s giving me breakfast or muffins,\u201d said Melecio, who\u2019s been driving for Ridgefield schools the past three years. Surprise breakfasts make his mornings feel a lot easier, while music eases the kids into theirs. \u201cOn the bus, they give me a list of music they want to hear, I record it on the phone and we\u2019re jamming straight through,\u201d Melecio told The Press. It\u2019s not all about the tunes though. Every year on the last day of school, Melecio gives students flowers to express his gratitude. \u201cThe parents are usually surprised \u2014 sometimes they\u2019re not even on the stop so I send them with the kids,\u201d he said. \u201cLast year, for my high school girls, I bought them flowers on the last day of school, so everybody on the bus got to take a flower.\u201d Ridgefield family Melecio, who previously worked as a coach bus driver, lives in town with his wife and his three daughters \u2014 a 19-year-old who just graduated from RHS, a 15-year-old, and a six-year-old. He wanted to spend more time with his family, and his wife convinced him to make the switch to driving a yellow school bus. He loves his new job, and says the other drivers do, too. \u201cWe adore all these kids,\u201d Melecio said. \u201cNot only myself, but a lot of the bus drivers here,\u201d he said. \u201cWe like to make sure they get home safe.\u201d While his popularity among the community continues to rise, there\u2019s one Ridgefield student who doesn\u2019t like riding Melecio\u2019s bus: his 15-year-old daughter. \u201cMy daughter hates riding on the bus with me because her sister drives,\u201d he said. \u201cShe prefers getting driven to school, and she\u2019s already telling me her license is coming up.\u201d Strong bonds Far from the license talk are Melecio\u2019s elementary and middle school bus riders. \u201cMy kids \u2014 those are the ones that make me laugh every morning,\u201d he said. \u201cI got a young lady, Olivia, that\u2019s amazing. Every time she comes in, she hits me on the arm or something and then goes to sit down.\u201d Melecio said each of the children holds a special place in his heart. \u201cEverybody has their own little attitude their own little ways,\u201d he said. \u201cEspecially my middle school kids \u2014 I have a whole bunch of kids that I love very much,\u201d he said. \u201cI get them pizzas or I send them up to the pizzeria and just have the stuff for them there.\u201d Paying it forward Many parents have shown Melecio how much they appreciate him, with cards, Christmas gifts, and more. For Melecio, the most difficult part of the job is saying goodbye to the kids each year. \u201cThe hardest part is the end of the year not seeing these kids, and a lot of them moving on to the next grade,\u201d he said. But he manages to surprise the kids that move on from his route. \u201cOur manager is awesome she\u2019ll let me take that one run and switch with another bus driver so I can see them once in a blue moon.\u201d Melecio enjoys his days laughing and joking with the kids \u2014 and their parents. \u201cIt\u2019s a great job, especially when you communicate with the parents,\u201d he said.